How To Become a Published Poet by 2020

The following is the outline of a lecture I gave today at the Jacksonville Public Library’s Winter Poetry Celebration. I hope it proves useful to anyone with notebooks full of honed material which deserves to be shared, but hasn’t been yet.


  • Select The Sacrificial Lambs


-Expect & accept rejections

-Free verse/no rhyme unless formality is specified

-Shorter line-length poems preferred (attention span/cheaper)

-Wording unique but thoughts universal

-Bias toward visual/format eccentricity?

-Select 3—5 best poems

-Cover letter & author bio


  • Hunt With Birdshot, Not Bullets


-Choose between physical or online journals

-Only send to journals that accept “simultaneous submissions”

-Physical journal acceptance rates generally 1—3%

-Poetry reading periods/contests commonly receive 500+ submissions

-Generally recommend avoiding submission fees (rewarding bad behavior) (Rattle as possible exception)


  • Today’s Poet Is More Important than their Poetry


-Publishing as politics; use it to your advantage (if applicable)

-Emerging/underrepresented—not new/unpublished

– Christian, British, Aryan name/straight white man? Consider penname/penpersona


“We particularly welcome submissions from indigenous writers, writers of colour, writers with disabilities, LGBTQQIA+ writers, and writers from other intersectional and under-represented communities. If you are comfortable identifying yourself as one or more of the above, please feel free to mention this in your cover letter.”

-U of New Brunswick’s The Fiddlehead


“[Submissions] are currently closed. During the off season, we only accept queries from POC and LGBTQ folks.”

-Tree Light Books


  • Digging for Dinosaurs (The Poetry Book)


-Poetry manuscript publishers expect previous publication of individual poems

-Consider self-publishing (Amazon’s Createspace for paperback/ebook, Vanities for hardback)

-Chapbooks vs full-length manuscripts (15—45p; 50—120p)

-Small presses (anecdote: 60 manuscript submissions; 2 acceptances; 1 publication)

-Literary agents/large publishers not a realistic option for poets without connections


  • Recommended Resources


-Robert Lee Brewer’s Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published / Poets & Writers magazine

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